“Suddenly, I am popular!” Celeste pulled up her holo-display listing two new messages. Leaning back on the sofa sipping her early morning coffee, she reached up with her free hand gesturing to decrypt and read the first message:
<#!== PRIVATE MESSAGE KEY: CLJ2LZJFJR7RN7TCLPCN ==>
Omni onto me.
Big bruiser trailing me.
Data archive still safe, but not sure for how long.
New price due to risk: 50,000 ISO
Will tell location and decryption keys if you pay.
“Pshh, amateur,” Celeste rolled her eyes as she gestured the next message into the display.
Meet me at Cloudspire, tomorrow, one o’clock?
Have something for you.
“Oh, oui-oui!” Celeste sat upright and smiled. She checked the date and time on Titus’s message. “He sent this last night? So he means to meet today? Mon Dieu, he could learn to communicate better, that man.”
Early one spring morning Titus wandered casually around his garden, the lone wolf prowling his domain. The small paths he’d laid out through the trees, and the bright sunlight that caused the first early blossoms to shine, presented flickering reminders. He walked effortlessly, a clear alternative to his previous life outside of Atlas, a life that involved hunting and slashing a hard path through the detritus of a crumbling world in order to find a new home; someplace to plant roots and grow something beautiful and reminiscent of his distant origins.
He knelt and brushed his fingers over the first tiny yellow petals of an apricot bonsai, marveling in their bright light. All around him early flowers blossomed and brightened the world with their explosions of color; yellow, white, pink, orange, red. At that moment, seeing the luminescent possibilities in every direction, Titus thought of Celeste, their nascent friendship so similar to these flowers. A rush of memories came through in every color; white and pink ice cream, the blood red remnants of a bar brawl. His eyes came to rest on a string of white cherry blossoms standing out against the blue sky, and as a light breeze caused them to dance he saw the streak of white through her blue hair.
In as much as a tree seemed a solitary thing, and so alone, it survived as part of an ecosystem. It gave to the world in which it existed. A gift was in order.